A Historical Journey of the 32nd Bomb Squadron from 1917 through 1988

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Material used in this paper was drawn from the histories of the 32nd Bombardment Squadron and higher echelon Organizations to which the Squadron was assigned. Information has also been taken from Volumes I, II and III of THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II and from the following USAF Historical Studies: No.115, “Air Phase of the Italian Campaign to January 1, 1944 . Number 122 “The Combined Bomber Offensive, January 1 to June 6, 1944 . Documents from the Offices of the Adjutant General and the Air Adjutant General, as well as a copy of the Unit Record Card maintained by the Directorate of Statistical Services, Headquarters USAF, were also consulted. Authoritative information pertaining to battle honors, citations, colors, and insignia may be obtained by writing to the Director of Military Personnel, Headquarters USAF, ATT: Personnel Services Division, Washington 25 D.C.

(Researched and edited by Captain Robert (Bob) E. Black, Bombardier of 32nd Bomb Squadron’s “Plutocrate” Number 124408.

The history of the 32nd Bombardment Squadron dates back to May 19 1917 when the War Department organized the 2nd Provisional Company F. Re-designated 1st Company E, Provisional Aviation School Squadron  on June 13, 1917 and the 32nd Aero Squadron on June 17 of 1917. While awaiting transportation to its overseas station the Squadron was temporarily stationed at Fort Totten , New York . On August 23 1917 the 32nd sailed for England aboard the S.S. Baltic. The ship waited at Halifax . Nova Scotia for eleven days for the convoy that was to take it to Europe . As the Baltic sailed into Saint George’s channel it was fired on by a German submarine. After a slow journey the ship docked at Liverpool ,. England on September 16, 1917.Immediately after the ship do9cked the 32nd Squadron disembarked and boarded a train for Southampton , England . On arrival in Southampton part of the Squadron was detached and sent to various schools in England for instruction in machine gunnery and aircraft constructi8on. The remainder of the 32nd personnel crossed the channel from Southampton and arrived at Le Havre , France on the 17th of September. Three days later the Squadron was among the first eight Squadrons to arrive in France that proceeded to Etampes, where another part of it was divided into small groups and sent to French aviation schools in Paris , Lyons and Tours . The remainder of the unit was stationed at Issoudun , France . During December of 1917 the Squadron was re-assembled as a training Squadron at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun where the unit remained until after the end of World War I. On April 4, 1919 the Squadron boarded the SS Arizonian for the return to the United States . It arrived at Garden City, New York on April 14 1919 at which time it was then demobilized.

Almost four years later on March 24, 1923 the Squadron was constituted on the inactive list as the 32nd Bombardment Squadron. At the same time the unit was assigned to the 7th Bombardment Group. On February 28, 1927 the 32nd was assigned to the Ninth Corps area for mobilization. That was then changed to the Eighth Corps Area on September 5, 1928 . Before activation the Group assignment of the 32nd Squadron was changed from the 7th to the 19th Bombardment Group.

The 32nd Bombardment Squadron was activated at Rockwell Field, Coronado , California on June 24, 1932 . Personnel for the newly activated unit was drawn from transfers and from voluntary enlistment. During those early years the 32nd was one of two Squadrons equipped with amphibian airplanes as standard equipment. The work and training of the Squadron was of a special and experimental nature including instruction and dissemination of advanced methods of navigation and sea observation.

In October of 1935 the 32nd Squadron moved from Rockwell field to March Field California . The Squadron was reorganized on September 1, 1938 . In 1937 the 32nd was equipped with B-18s. The unit continued training in Bombardment aviation and in methods of aerial navigation. Cross country and local training flights were made with emphasis being placed on heavy bombardment. In December of 1938 the Squadron was assigned to receive a few B-17s on loan from the British Government for training purposes but it is not known whether the Squadron actually received any. During January of 1940 the 32nd participated in the joint Army-Navy maneuvers in the San San Francisco area. Based at Oakland Municipal airport, California the Squadron participated in Seas search and attack problems in conjunction with the Navy. Early in October 1940 the Squadron took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.

In January 1941 the 19th Bomb Group became one of the three Groups in the Army Air Corps to be equipped with the newest long range bomber the B-17. Shortly thereafter the 32nd in participation with the entire group made one of the historical flights in aviation history. In April of 1941 the fourth air force to which the 19th group was assigned began making preparations for ferrying 21 B-17’s to the Hawaiian Islands in order to strengthen the air striking force in that area. Never before had a mass flight of heavy bombers flown the 2400 mile stretch between the west coast and Hawaii . The 19th Bombardment Group under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Eugene L. Eubank was selected as the unit to make the first flight. After careful preparations 21 B-17’s took off from Hamilton Field , California on May 13, 1941 . After an average elapsed time of 13 hours and ten minutes the planes landed at Hickam Field , Hawaii . On the following morning the aircraft arrive within five minutes of their estimated time of arrival. Soon after landing in Hawaii some of the Group’s personnel returned to the United States . Fifteen crew members remained in Hawaii for a short time to instruct members of the Hawaiian Air Force who had never flown heavy bombers.

In June of 1941 the 32nd moved to Albuquerque , New Mexico where the base was more suitable for heavy bombardment training. During the next two months additional aircraft and personnel were received. Since the 19the Bombardment Group was placed on top priority for heavy bombardment groups to be utilized to meet any emergency an intensive training program was carried out. However, in September of 1941, the 19th Bomb Group departed for the Philippines while the 32nd Squadron remained at Albuquerque .

It is difficult to determine exactly what happened to the 32nd Squadron during the latter part of 1941. It appears that in November that year the Squadron was scheduled for shipment overseas. The ground echelon apparently sailed for the Philippines on December the 5th aboard the SS President Johnson but returned to San Francisco after the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor on December 7. On December 14, 1941 the ground echelon returned temporarily to March Field , California . Two days later it was transferred to Kern County Air Base in Bakersfield California . In March of 1942 it was moved to Geiger Field in Spokane , Washington . According to one source the Air Echelon equipped with B-17’s had departed March Field , California around December 1, 1941 and had arrived in the Philippines . Most of their planes were destroyed early in the Japanese campaign. Only 4 members of the squadron escaped the enemy.

When the ground echelon moved to Geiger Field a new air echelon was assigned to the newly formed 301st Bombardment Group’s Squadrons namely the 32nd, 352nd, 353rd and 419th. While at Geiger Field the 32nd Squadron trained in all new B-17s with the other squadrons. In May of 1942 the ground and air echelons separated not to be reunited, except for a very brief period of two days in Alamogordo, New Mexico, until both arrived at Chelveston, England in August of 1942.

The ground echelon of the squadron left Geiger Field on May 1942 and arrived at Alamogordo , New Mexico on May 27, 1942 . The air echelon having stopped at Muroc Lake , California for ten days of intensive bombing and gunnery training, did not get to Alamogordo until the middle of June. The stay at Alamogordo was brief. The ground echelon left for Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia on 17, June and arrived at the new station on the 21st. After a month in Richmond , the ground echelon was ordered to Fort Dix , New Jersey . There it spent two weeks in being processed for shipment overseas. It arrived at the New York port of Embarkation on 4, August and two days later sailed for England abroad the S. S. Uruguay arriving at Chelveston , England on August 18, 1942 .

Meanwhile, the air echelon had moved from Alamogordo to Brainard Field , Connecticut between June 20th-23rd. In preparation for the trip to England , the air echelon trained with the units of the 14th Fighter Group. The 301st Group was to be escort and protection for the 14th Group’s P-38s which were unarmed. On June 30th the air echelon moved to Westover Field , Massachusetts , where an advanced training program was set up to train combat crews in the flying procedures used the British Isles . Cross-country flights, over-water flights and many other difficult types of flying which would be encountered in the future combat zone were incorporated in the training program. After receiving additional B-17s, the air echelon left Westover between July 23rd and August 3rd. Flying from the U.S. by way of Main, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland, the squadron’s aircraft arrived at Chelveston between August 9-16, 1942. All of the unit’s B-17s reached England without mishap.

At Chelveston the reunited squadron, along with the entire 301st Group, became a part of the Infant VIII Bomber Command of the Eighth Air Force. The 301st was the second heavy bomb group to enter combat in the European Theater of Operations. Although the Group entered combat on September 5, 1942 , the 32nd Squadron did not fly its first combat mission (my 1st combat mission) until October 2nd. At that time, 7 of the unit’s B-17s participated in a raid on the Avions Potez Aircraft Factory at Meaulte , France . The bombing was very successful. The 301st Group claimed 5 or 6 direct hits on the Factory. There were numerous encounters with enemy fighters and the 301st claimed 3 destroyed, 5 probably destroyed and 1 damaged. Six of the group’s planes were damaged but all returned safely.

The squadron flew four more missions from England . It struck the railroad shops and yards at Lille , France on October 9th. Combat crews reported numerous direct hits on the steelworks and railroad shops. On October 21st, the target was the submarine pens at Lorient , France . Installations in the dock area at Brest , France were hit on November 7th. On November 8th, the 32nd completed its tour of duty in England when the unit’s B-17s bombed the locomotive works at Lille with moderately successful results. During the squadron’s operations in England no planes were lost and no personnel were reported missing.

On September 14, 1942 , the 301st Bomb Group had been relieved of its assignment to the Eighth Air Force and assigned to the XII Bomber Command, Twelfth Air Force in preparation for the part it was to play in Operation Torch---the invasion of Northwest Africa . The air echelon of the 32nd Squadron left England on November 23rd and arrived at Tafaraoui Airdrome , Algeria three days later. The squadron operated from Tafaraoui between November 26th and December 5, 1942 , from Maison Blanche, the airport at Algiers , until December 16th and then from Biskra , Algeria until January 17, 1943 .

Because of the urgent need of aircraft on the Tunisian front at that time, the squadron lost no time in entering combat. It flew its first mission in North Africa on November 28, 1942 when its B17s hit the docks and shipping facilities at Bizerte . During December the squadron’s B-17s concentrated their attention on airdromes, docks and marshalling yards in Tunis , Bizerte , Sfax and Sousse . In a raid on Tunis by the 301st Group on December 12th all but 6 of the 100 bombs dropped hit the target. On the following day the “heavies” sank a ship in the harbor at Bizerte . After Christmas, the bad weather having worn itself out for the time being, the east coast ports of Sfax and Sousse became the chief targets. On December 26th 1 small and 2 large ships were sunk in the harbor at Sfax. Next day the 301st Group attacked Sousse claiming hits on 4 ships, 1 of which was reportedly blown to bits. Sfax absorbed further punishment on the 31st. The 301st claimed hits on 2 medium sized vessels in the harbor.

Meanwhile, the ground echelon of the squadron having left Chelveston on December 7-8, 1942 arrived at St. Barber-Du-Tlelat , Algeria on December 21st. the air echelon moved to Ain M’Lile , Algeria on January 17, 1943 and was joined by the ground echelon on January 23rd.

During the month of January 1943 La Goulettee , Tunis , Bizerte , Sousse , Sfax and Gabes were heavily bombed by the squadron. The object of those attacks was not only to disrupt the enemy’s lines of communications and thus add to his logistic problems but also to soften up Tunisia in preparation for ground action there. The unit concerned itself with airdromes, docks and shipping. A highly successful mission was flown against El Aouina on January 22nd.  First Army intelligence reported that the B-17s hit an ammunition dump and caused 600 military casualties. By the most conservative estimate, 12 parked planes were destroyed and 19 damaged. The 32nd Squadron claimed 2 enemy aircraft destroyed, 1 probably destroyed and 3 damaged. The B-17s however, were concerned primarily with harbors where they frequently could subtract from the enemy’s merchant marine and Tunisian Port capacity at one and the same time. Such a fortunate coincidence occurred on January 23rd at Bizerte . B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group sank a large merchant vessel in the channel near the naval base while those of the 301st dropped their bombs on hangars, workshops and oil tanks.

Attacks on the African targets continued through February and March 1943 but increasing attention was also paid to Sicilian and Sardinian Airfield and Ports. Enemy aircraft based at Elmas Airdrome, Cagliari , Sardinia badly damaged an allied convoy between Oran and Algiers on February 6th. The bombing was extremely effective. Bursts covered the field and hangars, destroyed an estimated 25 aircraft on the ground and left large black smoke fires. In addition the bombers claimed 5 ME-109s shot down and 2 Italian Air Force RE-2001s damaged. The Twelfth’s airplanes all returned safely. Save for attacks on Sousse and on Kairouan Airdrome, the squadron’s B-17s were inactive during the following week but February 15th saw them over Palermo . The group claimed to have sunk 1 ship and fired 3 near misses scored on several others. Cagliari was visited again on the 28th.

Early in March 1943 the squadron moved from Ain M’Lile to St. Donat , Algeria . By mid-March the Allied situation in North Africa was more favorable than it had been. After having spent a miserable winter in the cold, mud and rain of Eastern Algeria , Allied Forces in the West were poised to strike into Tunisia . Targets during the early part of the month included the La Goulette Docks, the El Aouina Airdrome, the Sousse Harbor and Djebel Tebaga Airdrome. On March 22, twenty-four B-17s of the 301st Bombardment Group including those of the 32nd, achieved what Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz was said to have considered “the most devastating single raid thus far in the war”. At Palermo , Sicily their bombs set off an explosion which the crews felt at their bombing altitude of 24,000 feet. Thirty acres of the city’s dock area was destroyed, 4 motor vessels were sunk and 2 coastal ships were lifted onto a damaged pier. In all the enemy lost 6 ships totaling 10,000 GRT (gross registered tons). Toward the end of March shipping at Ferryville was hit once and at Cagliari twice.

The most celebrated of the heavies’ exploits at that time occurred at La Maddalena in Northern Sardinia . Early in April 2 of the 3 heavy cruisers left in the Italian Navy were discovered anchored in a cove and protected by anti-submarine nets at La Maddalena. It seemed to some the leaders of the Northwest African Air Forces that the presence of the Italian ships at La Maddalena offered an excellent opportunity to discover how 1,000 pound bombs dropped from B-17s would perform against the 2 to 3 inches of deck armor on the cruisers. Hence, on April 10, planes from the 97th,99th and 301st Bomb Groups (including 7 aircraft from 32nd Squadron) set out from North African Airdromes in an attempt to reduce the effectiveness of the Italian Navy. When the bombing was finished, the Italian heavy cruiser, the Triest had been sunk by twenty-four B-17s of the 301st bombing from an altitude of 19,000 feet; the Gorizia was so heavily damaged by 36 fortresses of the 97th Group that it had to be put in dry dock and left there for a long time; the 24 bombers of the 99th had accomplished extensive damage to harbor installations and a submarine pen. Earlier on April 6, 1943 , twenty-two B-17s of the 301st Group attacked a convoy of 3 merchant vessels and 3 escort vessels heading toward Brizerte. Sixty-five tons of general purpose bombs were dropped on the target from 18,000 feet. One merchant vessel received direct hits and blew up. Another was left smoking and in flames.

During this period the heavies were devoting attention to enemy airfields in Southern Italy as well as to those in Sicily and Sardinia . Those raids complemented attacks by fighter aircraft on the cargo planes—Ju-52s, SM-82s and ME-323s—used in transporting Axis supplies to North Africa . Extensive use of air transport had long been an Axis reliance in the African War. This attempt to disrupt the enemy’s air supply—known as Operation Flax—had been planned for February but because of events at Kasserine Pass , was postponed until April. The 32nd Squadron contributed to the operation by effective bombing of the airfield at Grosseto and Capodichino in Italy ; Milo , Castelvetrano and Palermo in Sicily ; and Elmas and Villacidro in Sardinia . The successful execution of Operation Flax was an important factor in the liquidation of the Axis Bridgehead in Tunisia .

Ports, however, still remained the prime target during April and the first half of May. Attacks were laid on Bizerte and Ferryville on several occasions. Ferryville took a fearful pounding from the B-17s on April 17th. The most effective attacks against Tunis and La Goulette occurred on May 5th when port installations were damaged extensively and eight small craft were sunk. The ports of Western Sicily and to a lesser extent those of Southern Sardinia felt the heaviest weight of attack as the Battle of Tunisia drew to a close. In the last weeks Northwest African Air Force was interested in destroying the facilities which might be used by the enemy for an evacuation from Tunisia . Three B-17 missions against Palermo on April 16th, 17th and 18th partially disabled the port. On May 9th the Squadron participated in what was the largest raid ever staged by our African Air Forces until that time. The 301st Group was one of four groups to take part in that raid in which one hundred twenty-five B-17s hit Palermo in a bitterly contested attack. Heavy attacks were also made against Marsala and Bo Rizzo in Sicily and Cagliarai in Sardinia . The combined action of May 13th completed the neutralization of the latter on the same day that the last Axis Commander was formally tendering his unconditional surrender in Tunisia .

Allied strategy following the capture of Tunisia called for the invasion of Sicily —Operation Husky. Another move however, had to be made first; the reduction of the island of Pantelleria coded Operation Corkscrew. As long as Pantelleria—situated as it is almost midway between Tunisia and Sicily—remained in Axis hands, aircraft based there would present a real threat to the success of Husky. During the latter part of May, medium bombers and fighter bombers attacked the island devoting their attention to the harbor facilities of Porto Di Pantelleria and the island’s only airfield, Marghano Airdrome. Heavy bombers complemented that assault by attacks on enemy airfields and communications in Sicily , Sardinia and Southern Italy . The 32nd Squadron hit the airdromes at Grossete and Sciacca in Italy and Comiso in Sicily ; rail installations at Messina , Sicily ; harbor installations in Leghorn , Italy ; the Naples-Pomigliano Aircraft Factory at Naples , Italy ; the Marshalling Yards at Foggia , Italy ; and the harbor installations at Terranova, Sardinia .

On June 1, 1943 the heavies began direct attacks on Pantelleria. The 32nd Squadron, however, did not begin to hit the island until five days later. Between Jun 6th and 11th the 32nd dispatched 38 Sorties to Pantelleria. Since the harbor and the airdrome had already been heavily bombed, the units B-17s directed most of their attention to coastal batteries and gun emplacements. The grand climax came on June 10th when more than a thousand planes participated (end of my 50 Combat Missions on June 10, 1943 ) in the dropping of 1,570 tons of bombs. Around noon of the 11th the garrison on the island surrendered. The aerial preparation for the assault landing had been so successful that the landings were almost without opposition; the only casualty was a British soldier—he was bitten by a Pantellerian Donkey.

Heavy bombers were not needed in the reduction Lampedusa; hence the B-17s returned to their old job of bombing Sicilian Airfield in preparation for the invasion of Sicily and in addition a dozen newly constructed fields of lesser importance. The 32nd directed its efforts against the fields in the western part of the island. Its heavies concentrated on Castelvetrano and Boccadifalco. In an attempt to block efforts to reinforce Sicily , the Squadron hit the ferry terminal at Messina ; the railroad running through Leghorn and military installations at Palermo . On June 28th, the Squadron’s aircraft showered Leghorn with tons of bombs severely damaging industrial and railway installations.

The final phase of the pre-invasion operations began on July 2nd when the Allied Air Forces launched a systematic attack against enemy airfields for the purpose of eliminating effective air opposition to the invasion forces. Reconnaissance indicated that the enemy had with drawn his fighters form the western fields of Sicily and from bases around Palermo to the Gerbini Complex. The task, therefore, in the final week preceding the invasion was mainly that of concentrating Allied efforts against the fields of Eastern Sicily . For its part in the assault during the 7 day period July 3-9, 1943 , the Squadron pounded the airdrome at Gerbini and its satellites for four days. The outstanding blow was delivered on July 5th with an estimated destruction of 100 enemy planes. Catania , Biscari, Pietro and Milo were other fields visited by the 32nd. The aerial preparation for the invasion of Sicily was so thorough that by D-Day, July 10, 1943 the only Sicilian airfields that were fully operational were Sciacca and Milo ; Gerbini with its 12 satellites along with the Sardinian airfields had been largely if not completely neutralized.

After the Allied landings took place on the 10th, the Squadron struck railroad bridges, marshalling yards and airdromes in support of the ground forces. On 2 occasions the marshalling yards at Messina were attacked in an effort to cut off the transportation of Axis supplies and personnel through the city. When the communication lines in Sicily had been thoroughly smashed, the unit attacked similar targets on the Italian mainland so as to cut off reinforcements for the enemy forces in Sicily . Transportation facilities were bombed in Naples , San Giovanni and Rome . On July 17th the marshalling yards and other railway installations in Naples were attacked by 353 bombers of the 9th and 12th Air Forces. More than 650 tons of bombs were dropped destroying large parts of the yards and the central railway station, industrial areas and fuel installations. Two days later aircraft of the 32nd were among the more than 500 bombers that made the historic raid on Rome . Four B17 Groups put the Lorenzo Marshalling yards out of action, while five groups of B-24s died the same for Littorio Yards. The attacks on Naples and Rome created a 200 mile gap in the railroad system between the two cities and prevented for several days at least rail traffic between central and southern Italy. During the last days of July, attention was shifted to landing grounds and airdromes in Italy and on July 23rd the 32nd Squadron flew 1,400 miles round trip to strike the landing ground at Leverano.

During the early part of August in an effort to force the enemy to give up his Sicilian positions but prevent his evacuation from Sicily , the Squadron pounded Messina , the airdrome at Capodichino and the marshalling yards at Terni and Lorenzo. Because Allied bombing in Italy impelled the enemy to move some of his aircraft to southern France , the Squadron bombed the Istres Airdrome on August 17th just as the Sicilian Campaign came to a close.

The end of the Sicilian Campaign signaled the beginning of an intensified attack by Allied Air Forces on the Mainland of Italy. In preparation for the part it was to play in the new aerial offensive, the 32nd Squadron had moved to Oudna , Tunisia between August 6-8, 1943 . Prior to the invasion of Italy August 16th thru September 2nd, the Squadron continued to pound at Italian cities, marshalling yards, industrial areas and airdromes. Its B-17s conducted raids against such targets as Foggia , Terni , Veterbo, Capua , Pisa and Bologna . For the heavies and their fighter escort and for the ground crews which serviced them there was never a break between campaigns; their operations were continuous, knowing neither beginning nor end.

Following the invasion of southern Italy by the British 8th Army on September 3rd ( Baytown ), the Squadron concentrated on airdromes in the Naples area. The unit continued to hit such fields as Capua , Veterbo, Capadichino and Foggia . Not only were those attacks in support of Baytown but also in preparation for Avalanche, the joint United States-British invasion at Salerno and Pestum on September 9th. After Avalanche, the 32nd joined in the isolation of the battlefield by cutting roads, rail lines and bridges. The principal targets were at Mignano, Benevento , Bolzano , Isernia, Ariano, Battipaglia and Torre Del Greco .

After the 5th and 8th Armies captured their two main objectives— Naples and Foggia they continued to press slowly but steadily up the peninsula. In support of the two armies, the Squadron during October hit marshalling yards, bridges and roads in Italy above the Volturno River . When it became apparent that the enemy was building up his airpower in Greece , the Squadron bombed the Argos and Athen airdromes with successful results. On October 24th, the Squadron attempted to bomb the aircraft factory at Weiner Neustadt , Austria but the target was hidden by clouds; consequently, the 32nd bombed Ebenfurth , Germany with excellent results.

When the 15th Air Force was established on November 1, 1943 , the 301st Bombardment Group was assigned to it. The mission of the new air force was to carry out the combined bomber offensive—under the Combined Chiefs of Staff—by flying strategic missions from Italian bases to supplement the strategic bombing being done by the 8th Air Force from bases in the United Kingdom. Provision was made however, for units of the 15th Air Force to take orders from the theater command—Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean —in emergencies. And it is true that many of the missions flown by the 32nd after November 1st were more tactical than strategic.

During November the Squadron’s operations were on a smaller scale than at any time since the Tunisian Campaign because of bad weather the 32nd flew only 7 missions. On November 2, six of the Squadron’s B-17s participated in a raid on the aircraft factory at Weiner Neustadt. Losses were high; the 32nd lost four aircraft at the hands of enemy fighters. Despite heavy fighter formations and intense anti-aircraft fire, a large aircraft assembly shop, two flight hangars and several buildings were destroyed. On November 8th the Squadron made a highly successful raid on the Turin Ball-bearing Factory in Italy . Two days later the Squadron bombed railway bridges at Bolzano , Italy . Istres/Le Tube Airdrome in Frances was severely damaged on the 16th. An attempt on November 22nd to bomb the submarine pens at Toulon , France failed because weather prevented the fortresses from reaching their target; the bombing was successfully carried out two days later. An attack on the marshalling yard at Rimini , Italy on November 27th ended the 32nd combat operations for the month.

When the 32nd Squadron moved to Cerignola , Italy in December 1943, the 15th Air Force was preparing to launch its strategic bombing campaign against Axis oil production, communications centers and aircraft plants and facilities in German occupied Europe . The movement of the 32nd to Italy was part of the tremendous buildup of airpower in the great Foggia Airfield Complex. The types of targets that the Squadron attacked were determined by the day-to-day requirements of the over all conduct of the war. However, between December 1943 and the end of the war in May 1945, the 32nd devoted its efforts largely along three lines. As part of the 301st Group which was assigned to the 15th Air Force (counter air campaign). A second job was to destroy the vita German oil production, both synthetic and natural. The third task was to concentrate on the enemy’s lines of communications and connected with that was the support of Allied Ground Forces on both the Italian and Balkan fronts.

In December the Squadron was able to increase the number of strategic bombing missions. Throughout the month interspersed with raids in marshalling yards and bridges in Italy and Austria , the 32nd hit aircraft factories and airdrome in Greece , Italy and Austria . Those December missions included attacks on Greek airdromes in Kalamaki and Eleusis ; the aero works at Turin , Italy ; and the marshalling yards at Innsbruck , Austria and at Bolzano , Italy .

Toward the end of 1943 strategic daylight raids into the interior had increased and during January 1944 members of the Squadron had the opportunity to exhibit their versatility and efficiency. During that month the unit completed 22 missions, 12 of them on consecutive days. In support of Allied landings at Anzio , the 32nd blasted rail communications and bombed landing strips around Rome , in northern Italy and in southern France . Although the exigencies of the Italian Campaign demanded the greater part of the Squadron’s attention, a lesser effort was directed against aircraft factories and industrial areas in Italy , Yugoslavia , Bulgaria and Austria . Target in the area of Sofia , Bulgaria were bombed three times during the month. The  Squadron flew its 200th mission on January 8th when eight B-17s bombed the aircraft factory at Reggio Emilia, Italy . On January 16th the aircraft factory at Klagenfurt , Austria was bombed with good success.

On February 2, 1944 the 32nd Squadron together with the rest of the 301st Group, moved to a new base, Lucera , Italy . Bad weather prevailed during February; on several occasions the bombers were recalled after having started for the target and numerous missions were “scrubbed”. Only eight successful missions were flown during the month. With Allied troops in difficulties at the Anzio Beachhead, the 32nd flew 3 tactical missions in support of the pinned down ground troops. Two were against troop concentrations near Rome and the third on February 15th was the bombing of the famed Benedictine Monastery on top of Monte Cassino which the Germans were using as a command and observation post. During the period February 20-25th (the big week), the Squadron helped pound the enemy’s aircraft industry to such an extent that it never fully recovered. On February 22nd the unit hit the ME=109 component factory at Regensburg , Germany . Two days later the Squadron’s B-17s visited the Daimler-Puch Aircraft at Steyr , Austria . The 32nd returned to Regensburg on the 25th when eight of its aircraft participated in the almost complete destruction of that vital enemy manufacturing center. As a result of heavy enemy fighter opposition to and from the target, the 32nd lost five B-17s.

After its effective participation in the big week the 32nd Squadron returned almost exclusively to the bombing of marshalling yards, bridges and airdromes in Italy . Early in March 1944 in an effort to repulse a strong enemy offensive which had developed in the Anzio Beachhead area, the Squadron directed its attacks against troop concentrations in the Beachhead area and marshalling yards north of Rome . On March 15th the 32nd participated with all the available airpower of the 15th Air Force in blasting the stubborn enemy defenses at Cassino . The greatest effort however was aimed at marshalling yards at Rome , Padua , Verona and Turin . Two raids were made on the airdromes at Udine , Italy and Klagenfurt , Austria also.

The April and May missions, a total of 33 (247 Sorties), were directed primarily against aircraft industries and airdromes in an effort to eliminate and destroy the Luftwaffe and against communications in direct support of the Russian advance into Rumania . The 32nd blasted aircraft factories, ball-bearing plants and airdromes in Austria , Hungary , Yugoslavia and Rumania . It caused much destruction in marshalling yards at Bucharest and Ploesti , Rumania ; Belgrade and Zagreb , Yugoslavia ; and Lyons and Avignon , France . Highly successful attacks were made on the Fishamend Markt Aircraft Factory in Austria on April 12th and again an aircraft factory at Weiner Neustadt , Austria on May 10th. In order to further disrupt German supply lines in northern Italy , several missions were flown against marshalling yards and bridges at Traviso, Piombino, Milan , Chivasso, Avisio, Mantua and Avezzano.

In the meantime the 8th and 15th Air Forces had launched what was to become their most rewarding campaign in the strategic air war, the destruction of enemy oil production. The importance of oil could not be underestimated. Tanks, aircraft and submarines consumed enormous quantities of oil and a shortage of oil would destroy the mobility and flexibility of the mechanized German Armed Forces. To procure sufficient quantities of oil, German had built synthetic plants not only in Germany proper but also in occupied countries. Great refineries were scattered throughout Rumania , Hungary , Austria , Poland , Czechoslovakia , France and Yugoslavia . To protect those vital areas, the Germans had provided extensive anti-aircraft and fighter protection.

The 32nd Squadron entered the oil campaign as early as May 1944. At that time the Squadron carried out a successful mission against the oil refineries at Ploesti , Rumania from which the Germans drew approximately one-fourth of their petroleum supplies. By June 1944 enough success had been achieved in knocking out the enemy’s airdromes and aircraft production to allow a concentration on oil production. Throughout the summer of 1944 the 32nd dealt crippling blows to various German oil centers. The Squadron continued to bomb the oil refineries around Ploesti , Rumania until the Russians occupied the region in late August 1944. By that time the enemy’s oil refineries in Rumania had been completely destroyed. The 32nd struck at the oil and storage plants at Vienna and Moosbierbaum, Austria ; Odertal , Germany ; Budapest , Hungary ; Brux , Czechoslovakia ; Blechhammer and Obwiecum , Poland and Sete and Le Puzin , France .

Though oil was a primary strategic objective other targets received attention during the summer months of 1944. When it became evident that the German Air Force might rise again, the 32nd returned to the enemy airdromes and aircraft production facilities. Interspersed with the oil strikes were frequent raids on airdromes in Austria , Germany , Czechoslovakia , Italy and on aircraft factories in Italy and Germany . On occasion the Squadron’s B-17s dumped their bombs on armament and tank works in Germany , Austria and Hungary . The targets most successfully bombed, however, were communications especially marshalling yards in Rumania , Italy , Yugoslavia , Hungary , Austria and France . There was also the support given to the ground forces.

Preceding the invasion of southern France in August 1944, the 32nd Squadron was called on to bomb enemy coastal defenses as a part of the softening-up process. Supporting the invading 7th Army, the 32nd Squadron dropped many tons of high explosives on gun positions, bridges and communications targets in France and Italy .

During the last four month of 1944 the Squadron flew approximately 60 missions. As the B-17s of the 32nd ranged over German-occupied Europe , favorite targets continued to be communications, oil refineries, aircraft factories and airdromes. The primary objective was to cut off the enemy’s flow of supplies and reinforcements which were sorely needed on the eastern and Italian fronts. The Squadron assisted the advance of the Russian-Rumanian forces by destroying trackage, rolling stock, facilities in marshalling yards and bridges in Yugoslavia , Italy , Hungary , Rumania , Austria and Germany . To keep the German Air Force in check, airdromes and aircraft plants in Austria , Yugoslavia and Germany were hit. Continuing its unrelenting pace against oil targets, the Squadron’ heavy bombers visited oil refineries and storage areas at Vienna and Moosbierbaum, Austria ; Blechhammer , Poland ; Brux , Czechoslovakia ; and Regensburg and Odertal , Germany . The result of the Allied attacks against oil production undertaken by Squadrons such as the 32nd led to the overall weakening of the German Armed Forces.

When January 1945 came the war in Europe was entering its final stages. As a result of adverse weather conditions only 7 missions were flown during January. Those were mainly against communication in Austria and northern Italy to keep delivery of enemy supplies at a minimum and interrupt and destroy rail traffic to the maximum. February proved to be more successful than the preceding month as the 32nd centered its raids on targets in Italy , Austria and Germany . In addition to oil targets included marshalling yards, industrial areas and bridges.

By March the German Wehrmacht was in a state of collapse as the western front broke and the enemy was in retreat. On the eastern front the Russians had launched a large-scale offensive and repeatedly drove the Germans back. In an effort to lend strong tactical support to the advancing Russians as well as to immobilize the enemy in northern Italy , the 32nd Squadron concentrated on vital marshalling yards and communications in Germany , Austria , Hungary and Yugoslavia . Of 21 missions flown in March six were attacks on oil facilities in Austria and Germany . In the other missions the Verona / Parona railroad bridge in Italy ; the main railroad station at Linz ; the north goods depot at Vienna ; an airdrome at Prague , Czechoslovakia ; and the Daimler-Benz tank assembly plant in Berlin were bombed.

In April 1945 the bomber offensive against strategic target came to an end. Consequently, the 32nd Squadron turned its attention to the offensive underway in the Po Valley of northern Italy . Supporting both the 5th and 8th Armies, the Squadron blasted bridges, marshalling yards, troop concentrations and ammunition dumps. The 32nd’s last mission was flown on April 26th against the marshalling yards at Linz , Austria . In May the war in Europe was over.

After the cessation of hostilities the Squadron remained at Lucera Airdrome until time to leave Italy for the United States . The unit sailed from Naples on July 14, 1945 aboard the U. S. Army Transport J. W. McAndrew and arrived at the Hampton Roads port of Embarkation 11 days later. Immediately the Squadron went to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia and presumably most of its personnel were then separated or sent home on leave or furlough. At that time the 301st Group to which the Squadron was still assigned, became a component of 2nd Air Force, Continental Air Forces. On July 26th a small detachment representing the unit left Camp Patrick Henry and arrived at Sioux Falls Army Air Field , South Dakota , two days later. After spend less than a month at Sioux Falls , the Squadron was transferred, less personnel and equipment, to Mountain Home Army Air Field , Idaho . While at that place the unit was redesignated 32nd Bombardment Squadron, very heavy. On August 23, 1945 the Squadron, still without personnel or equipment, moved to Pyote Army Air Field , Texas where it remained until it was inactivated on October 15, 1945.

Less than one year later, on August 4, 1946, the 32nd Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy, was activated at Clovis Army Air Field , New Mexico . Upon Activation the unit was assigned to the 301st Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, Strategic Air Force. Available evidence does not indicate just when personnel and aircraft—B-29s—were supplied to permit the Squadron to become an operating unit. On July 16, 1947 the Squadron was transferred without personnel from Clovis to Smoky Hill Army Air Field , Kansas . In October 1947 the 15th Air Force activated the 301st Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, as part of a USAF Reorganization Plan and assigned the 301st Bombardment Group to the new wing.

In six of the 12 month of 1948 the 32nd Squadron together with the other units of the 301st Group flew almost 10,000 hours. There were 30 or more 4,000 mile flights, 5 flights to Hawaii , 2 to the Caribbean and 1 to Alaska . By May 1948 the USAF had acquired aircraft such as “Very Heavy” or even “Heavy”; consequently on May 28, 1948 the Squadron was redesignated 32nd Bombardment Squadron, Medium.

On March 1, 1949 the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron was activated and became a component of the 301st Group. Thereafter members of the bomb squadrons worked with personnel of the new squadron in mastering the difficult art of refueling in the air.

Early in November 1949 the Squadron moved from Smoky Hill to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana . The Squadron continued training combat crews in the B-29. In February 1950 the Squadron flew to Goose Bay , Labrador on a refueling mission. On April 1st the 301st Bombardment Wing, Medium and the 301st Group along with it was relieved from assignment to the 15th Air Force and assigned to the 2nd Air Force. In May 1950 most of the Squadron was sent to England on temporary duty; only a small detachment remained behind at Barksdale. While in England the unit operated from a Royal Air Force Station at Lakeheath; the Squadron stayed in England until December 1, 1950.

In February 1951 the 301st Bomb Group, Medium was in effect absorbed by the Wing Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. One officer and one airman were left assigned to Headquarters Squadron. One officer and one airman were left assigned to Headquarters 301st Bomb Group to keep the unit technically active. Administrative and Operational Control of the 32nd and the rest of the group’s squadrons passed to 301st Wing Headquarters.

Except for brief periods of temporary duty at Brize Norton Royal Air Force Station in England from December 8, 1952 to March 6, 1953 and Sidi Slimane in French Morocco from February 14th to April 14th 1954, the 32nd Squadron remained in training at Barksdale Air Force Base. In 1953 the Squadron’s B-29s were replaced with B-47s.

In April 1958 personnel of the 32nd Bomb Squadron were transferred to the 4238 Strategic Support Wing at Barksdale for further assignment to B-52 training with 436th Bomb Squadron (Heavy) and to KC-135 training with the 913th Air Refueling Squadron. On April 15, 1958 the Squadron along with the 301st Bombardment Wing moved on permanent change of station orders to Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio .

March 15, 1965 reactivated Lockbourne A. F. Base, Ohio , February 2, 1966 re-designated the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron (AREFS). September 30, 1979 Deactivated. November 1, 1981 the 32nd Bomb Squadron reactivated to 32nd (AREFS) at Barksdale , Louisiana . This unit was assigned to the 1s K. C. 10 tanker aircraft. They are still active at this base. In January of 1988 the  301st Bombardment Wing and later designated as the 301st Air Refueling Wing using the K. C. 135 aircraft now presently stationed at Malmstrom A. F. B., Montana. This group is made up with personnel of the 32nd, 352nd, and 353rd Squadrons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, in all seriousness it may be that there remains quite a justified feeling of pride in anyone who was a member of this remarkable outfit. Anyone who had a part in the more than 400 missions flown against the enemy and in the three theatres of operation (E.T. C., England , African and the Italian Campaigns). Of those who were privileged to be part of this tradition that grew of men who contributed to its distinguished performance in the air and on the ground. Many courageous airmen and a host of other personnel who did their very best to add honor to the fighting carriers of the 32nd Bombardment Squadron (H) United States Army Air Force.

It was truly a great outfit to have received the many Presidential citations and all other distinguished service awards throughout their campaigns in World War II.